5 min read

Improve Database Quality By Taking Out the Trash

Content is termed the “king” when it comes to marketing – but I am going to challenge that and say that data might be even more powerful. Without accurate data, your content will never reach its fullest potential. Leads are one of the most common metrics measured by marketing. But if you start to peel back the layers, the TRUE leads are likely to be a smaller percentage after you remove the “trash” that accumulates in your database.

Improve Database Quality By Taking Out the Trash-2
You should have a plan in place to either automatically clean up your database or periodically do a manual scrub to avoid reporting on inaccurate data. For obvious reasons, I recommend the first option, which can be automated if you are using a marketing automation tool such as, HubSpot. For example, you can set up workflows that remove bad contacts (first name = xyz or job title = princess). If you are preparing to implement a marketing automation or CRM tool for the first time, one of your first steps is to perform database clean up so that you are only importing contacts you care to keep (and pay for).

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Traffic data pulled from HubSpot

The 4 things you should be looking to cleanse in your database include:

1. Standardization

You need uniformity between records so that you can depend on your marketing automation tool to perform essential functions properly such as personalization, lead scoring and segmentation. These standardizations rules should be communicated to anyone inputting data.

Things to look for:

  • Country to a 3-letter or 2-letter code
  • Standardize title to allow it to be used for segmentation or scoring (i.e. VP of Operations or Vice President of Operations)
  • Phone number format or field for “mobile” and “office”
  • Fix zip codes from New England... they have a leading 0 and Excel drops that if the list has ever been in Excel

2. De-Duplication

Duplicated contacts can become a real embarrassment. If you have a contact that is in your database twice but your sales team is only looking at one then they do not have the full picture of that contact and their engagement with you. They could be missing vital information that lives in the other record that the contact knows they already provided you with and assume you know.


Most marketing automation tools and CRMs recognize email address to avoid duplication but what about when someone uses a personal email? It is important to look for duplication on multiple fields outside of email address. I recommend a combination of: Company, First Name, Last Name, Job Title or Phone Number. Once you identify a duplicate, you can then merge the records.

3. Capture & Hygiene

By focusing on receiving quality data at the convert stage using forms then you reduce the amount of clean up you have to do over time, in turn saving time and blunders. Hygiene could be the most important factor to look our for since you do not want to report inflated KPIs and later have someone poke holes in the data because of all the “trash” contacts or leads that would never be a true SQL.

Things to look out for:

  • Using drop down selection field rather than open text. I like to ask “role” or “department” and give a defined list to select from. This will reduce guessing.
  • Misspellings, incorrect capitalization, etc: Basically clean up any information that will make you look silly. If you emailed me and said “Hi krisit” (it’s spelled Kristi, I would assume that is the detail and quality to expect from your company and would be less likely to responds.
  • Contacts that you would not want to include in reports such as:
    • Competitors: add to a “block list” but keep them in the database for tracking purposes
    • Trash: i.e. first name = adfgh should be deleted all together
    • Unsubscribes: You do not want to lose historical information so just remove these from your email lists as it will impact your deliverability metrics and score. Also, not being able to email the contact only means he or she is not intercapture_hygieneested in communicating with you via that channel.
    • Hard Bounces: There is debate among marketing as to keep these or not. I say trash them. This person is no longer with the company or it is an invalid email address. If there are account based notes those should be moved elsewhere.

4. Append & Validate

Validating existing data or appending data to existing contacts is a great way to give you a holistic and accurate view of that contact that you otherwise may not ever get.

You can outsource that project to data companies but the inbound marketing recommendation is to do progressive profiling with smart forms in order to ask only the questions you need info for (role, buying time frame, industry etc). By asking fewer questions, you will increase your conversions but also gain a better picture of the contact for segmentation and well-informed sales discussions.

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Data collection options for smart forms in HubSpot

Items to append or validate:

    • Physical address (if you'll be using this)
    • Industry
    • Role
    • Buying time frame
    • Phone numbers
    • Job Titles
    • Annual Revenue

It is important to get ahead of data quality before it gets out of hand as this can become a very time intensive, manual project to address later. By using these tips, implementing a process and communicating it across those who will be inputting data such as sales and customer support you will be able to report on your leads and marketing efforts with confidence in the accuracy.

Learn More:

B2B Sales and Marketing Pipeline Management


Wendy Covey

Wendy Covey is a CEO, a technical marketing leader, author of Content Marketing, Engineered, one of The Wall Street Journal’s 10 Most Innovative Entrepreneurs in America, and she holds a Texas fishing record. She resides in a small Hill Country town southwest of Austin, Texas, where she enjoys outdoor adventures with her family.

About TREW Marketing

TREW Marketing is a strategy-first content marketing agency serving B2B companies that target highly technical buyers. With deep experience in the design, embedded, measurement and automation, and software industries, TREW Marketing provides branding, marketing strategy, content development, and digital marketing services to help customers efficiently and effectively achieve business goals.